Posted by: suzan | August 12, 2011

Children in the US go hungry

Just the other day I read an article in Parents magazine that deeply touched my heart. It was an article about malnourished children in the United States in the July 2011 issue of Parents magazine. The article points out that one in four children in the US do not have enough food to eat. Wow – one in four children. Imagine a family of four kids – only 3 of them are estimated to eat a meal while the other does not. I think of my brother who has four kids and luckily they all have enough food to eat, but I can’t fathom the idea of one of my beloved nieces or nephews sitting in her or his bedroom starving. Of course, my brother would never let his kids go hungry but what happens when a parent can’t feed all of his/her children? The article also states that in a larger family, it’s usually the parents that end up going hungry just so they could feed their children.

It saddens me to know that while the US is helping malnourished children in other countries, they are forgetting that children in this country are also going hungry. And yes, although third world countries may need more help, we’ve got to find a better solution for everyone – in this country and in other underprivileged countries. Food is the number one priority in almost everyone’s life. Without enough food, we not only go hungry, but we feel sad, tired, and distraught and often that not, we end up doing things we regret. Food fuels the brain and the body, and I’ve read stories about people who steal and hurt others in order to be able to put a plate of food on their dinner table. Parents may go to extremes to feed their hungry children, but it shouldn’t lead to further downfall.

In the Parents magazine article, titled, “The Hungry House”, the author noted that when a child becomes malnourished, the child will need 50 percent more quality nutrition than a typical child does in order to regain his/her health. And unfortunately, that would have to happen rather immediately for their health to recover. Which is pretty ironic when, how do you gain 50 percent more quality nutrition when you have even less of that to begin with? Where will these malnourished children get the extra nutritional help? Fortunately, on some small scale, there are facilities and groups in the United States that can help those who do not have enough food to eat. There are local food pantries, public schools (as long as it’s during school season), and private and public fundings. But as the author points out, what happens to these children when it’s summer? Most of them rely on at least one free regular meal during school season which is provided by the school (or at least a very inexpensive meal), but when school’s out, and there’s no longer free food offered at school, families must rely on their local charity or donations for regular meals. The author also notes that donations for food are usually made around the holidays but what about throughout the year? I see supermarkets with their meal donation coupons of $1, $3, or $5 posted at the checkout and seldom do I see people pick them up during checkout unless it was a holiday. However, I did hear a great story that a cashier told me about last Christmas season. She said that one man came in and purchased $1000’s worth of meal donation coupons without batting an eye. She thought apparently it was quite natural for the man to be doing something so charitable.

Food pantries are great, but they’re not available everywhere and sometimes their food gets distributed so quickly, that they don’t replenish fast enough. And donating the right type of food is crucial as well. Food pantries look for food that are easy to use in most families, have a long shelf life, and are substantial. They want food that can feed an entire family which includes canned beans or any canned vegetables, flour, milk, basic staples such as sugar, salt, etc. and they also welcome toiletries such as paper towels, shampoo, toothpaste, etc. I know whenever we sponsor a family during the holidays, we also include toiletries in the gift basket along with food that families don’t normally get to treat themselves with.

In the Parent’s article, the author notes that states with the highest “food-insecurity” rates are typically Arkansas, Mississippi, Georgia, Texas, and North Carolina but I personally feel that all of America are affected by hunger. It could be a single income family or a single parent raising several children, or just a family that does not have the means to earn enough income to provide a steady stream of food every day. And I think it’s doubly important to point out that when children go hungry and do not get enough proper nutrition, it leads to further complications down the line. America can be a wonderful place, but it can also be a glutinous place. There are many families who wastes food and teach their children that wasting food is all right. I think it’s important to teach kids to know about portion control – kids should take only what they need instead of filling up their plates with stuff they’ll never finish. If you’ll also notice in restaurants, A LOT of food goes to waste when a family could have easily shared their food with one another instead of ordering more than what they can consume. Or take the rest to go and eat them for dinner or for lunch the next day. Every time there’s food leftover on our plates, I take them to go and jazz them up a bit for another meal. You just have to remember that there are families out there who don’t have the luxury to eat out and would do anything for a complete meal.

My suggestion would be that if you have extra staples in your home and you’d like to donate them, then keep a bag handy in your kitchen. When you know you won’t be eating or cooking with that staple, then place it in the bag. Once the bag fills up, take it to your local food pantry. Many times staples such as canned goods or flour or sugar gets thrown out because they expired or because we forget that we bought a truckload of them to stock up on. If you would like to read more about the article in Parents magazine, here is the direct link: http://www.parents.com/parenting/better-parenting/hunger-american-children/?sssdmh=dm17.541612&esrc=nwpmmdailytip080911&email=1937670098.

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